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Alpharetta Greenway

The dayGreenwayApr16.3 after running my brother into the ground during our Amicalola Falls Hike, we had an easy day of museum visits before calling it quits. Two days later, we spent some time touring Bulloch Hall, the childhood home of the wife of Teddy Roosevelt. I tried to convince my brother that we should hike along the Chattahoochee River, which was not far from this historic home butGreenwayApr16.1 he claimed it was not happening. We compromised by walking about 3 miles along the Big Creek Greenway.

The Big Creek Greenway is an 8.5 mile stretch of walkway that meanders along the Big Creek. Built to preserve green space during a time of rapid growth, it provides a relatively quiet place for walkers, joggers, and cyclists to enjoy. It is always a pleasure to find a natural, quiet area set aside in such built-up places.

I did not pay attention to which section of the Greenway we actually walked, but I have a feeling that we may have begun our stroll along Mansell Road. Meandering along the pavedGreenwayApr16.2 path, I found clusters of yellow daisy/aster like flowers on both sides of the trail. Studying my field guides later, I discounted my first analysis for the leaves of these plants did not have the more even appearance of either. I could be wrong but I finally narrowed my choice to the Ragwort family. Further along, I found white Fleabane mixed in. Of course I concentrated on the flowers and the greenness during our walk, since everything was still rather bare backGreenwayApr16.4 home.

Occasionally, we would come very close to apartment or condo complexes but the placement of trees and vine cover kept the development from being too intrusive;  and we always had a view of the Creek on one side of the walkway. At ½ mile intervals there were distance markers, allowing us to keep track of our progress. I believe my companion kept looking for these markers, trying to decide how far we would travel before it would be acceptable to suggest embarking on our return journey. After crossing two bridges and reaching the 1.5 mile sign, we turnedGreenwayApr16.5 around.

On our return journey, we spotted several deer grazing not far from the trail. They did not seem startled by our presence as they slowly made their way along, munching on leaves. One creature even looked up to stare at us, a cluster of leaves hanging from its mouth.

All along our walk, I kept noticing the remnants of red flowers on the paved ground and wondered how they got there. It wasn’t long before my brother pointed out the vines nearby, bearing the blossoms of the Trumpet Flower. Sometimes, I am not very observant and have to be reminded to look up in order to appreciate everything nature has to offer.  Soon, we returned to our starting point and made our way home.

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Amicalola Falls

Early in AmicalolaApr16.1April I spent some time in Georgia, visiting my brother. Since I am not overly fond of hot weather, spring seemed the optimal time to go, so with temperatures near 70 I headed south. Unfortunately for the people of Georgia, I brought the cooler temperatures of Maine with me. I don’t believe the temperatures ever climbed above 65 during my entire visit and I am sure I heard a collective cheer from the inhabitants of that state AmicalolaApr16.2as I boarded my plane back to Maine.

Knowing that I like to be outdoors, we headed an hour north one day, to visit Amicalola Falls. The park, where the falls are located, is the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail and I thought it would be rather fun to have bragging rights that I at least walked a small (very small) portion of the AT. Alas, it was not to be, for the trail to the top of Amicalola Falls is called the Appalachian Trails Approach. Note the word “Approach”. This trail runs 8.5 miles to the top of Springer Mountain where the AT actually begins. I thought that was a bit of a rub since there is a sign and a plaque at the visitor’s center boasting that Mt. Katahdin, Maine is 2108.5 miles away.

Disappointed that AmicalolaApr16.3I would not be able to tell of my exploits on the AT trail, I was still determined to reach the top of the falls. From the visitor’s center, we began our hike on a boardwalk leading towards the Appalachian Trails Approach. Along the way, I noticed the red buds of Trillium and white foamflowers already in bloom.

Soon enough we crossed the road to continue our journey in the woods. The trail followed a stream before depositing us near the Reflecting Pool. As I gazed up to the top of the falls, I wondered how we were going to make it all the way up. I am not the sturdiest of hikers but I knew my brother was even less so and wondered if these two old fogies were capable of making this journey.

After taking AmicalolaApr16.4some family photos, we continued around the Reflecting Pool towards the trail that would eventually deposit us at the top of the falls. At this point, the path began an upward incline, but since it consisted of broken down pavement, I found it more difficult to traverse than a dirt trail obstructed with roots and rocks.  Once we completed this section, we were greeted by a sign informing us that we were about to ascend 175 steps. I am sure these stairs made the journey easier but it certainly seemed a bit strenuous at the time.AmicalolaApr16.5

At the end of the stairs we crossed the observation bridge, noting how much closer we were to the falls. It was pretty impressive watching the water flow over the cliffs above. We continued our journey only to discover our hard work was not over yet. When we rounded a curve in the trail, we found another sign indicating that we were about to climb another 425 steps. Fortunately, we found that every 75 steps or so, benches were placed along the stairs (yes, I counted). The more steps we climbed, AmicalolaApr16.6the more frequently we felt we had to stop, but we were determined to get to the top. Of course my niece had already made it to the top, turned around to meet us with about 100 more steps to go and joined us back up to the top. Oh, to be young and agile again!

Finally, after 600+ steps, we made it to the top. Here, we could absorb the sound of the falls, the early spring foliage of the region and the mountains in the distance. Beauty, only nature can offer. After studying the view (and recovering from our climb), we descended the 600 steps back to our car. My brother bragged about hiking 5 miles, but after studying the trail map, I knew we had only hiked a mile up to the top of Amicalola Falls and a mile down. I did not have the heart to tell him.